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Showtime Strikes A Chord With, "The Affair"
"The Affair" season one took a risk. It started out in what seemed like slow motion and many viewers wondered whether the story was going to go anywhere worth a watch.
Turns out, "The Affair" has unfolded into one of the most alluring emotional dramas on television. It plays out like a novel you just cannot put down, and the seemingly languid storytelling in the beginning of the series is only the wind up preparing you for a full on roller coaster ride.
"The Affair" doesn't disappoint. The truly unique aspect of this show is that it's not just about a salacious affair. We've all seen that 100 times over.
This show is primarily about the characters. Each episode takes you on a different perspective as to what's going on in the mind of all the players involved. Not only does the show delve into the consequences of an extra-marital affair, but it also continues the story on far beyond it.
While trying not to give too much away, let's dive into this complex drama that takes viewers away from what they've seen on television before. In, "The Affair" stereotypes are shifted and the truth is always relative.
"It plays out like a novel you just cannot put down, and the seemingly languid storytelling in the beginning of the series is only the wind up preparing you for a full on roller coaster ride."
One of the fascinating portrayals in this series is that of the mistress, Alison Bailey, who is magically played by Ruth Wilson. You would never know this actress is British if you weren't already aware, and the careful consideration she pours into her role is admirable, to say the least.
But Alison is not just the mistress. She's a wife and the mother of a child who died. That's the twist the show throws at you in the very first episodes. It's incredibly hard to hate this woman, who, logically, we could assume is a horrible woman for having an affair with another woman's husband.
But we don't hate Alison. She's a beautiful mess when we first meet her, and we are immediately drawn into her earthy warmth.
We learn many things about Alison in the first season, and the most important thing we learn is that she is a lost and grieving mother who is desperately trying to run away from the guilt she feels over her son's death. We see that her marriage is hanging by a thread, and it appears she and her husband have been trying desperately to have another child, unsuccessfully.
The assumption could be made that the attempt to have another baby is a way for Alison and her husband, Cole (played by Joshua Jackson) to escape the pain of a dead child and become the would-be savior of a crumbling marriage.
Either way, when we first meet Alison's husband, Cole, he's a sketchy character who seems mysterious, dark, and moody. We're not quite sure that these two are a happy couple, but we're sure they must have been at one time before they were both consumed by grief.
Later on in the series, we learn that Cole battles demons of his own, but loves his wife with a fierceness that eventually endears him to the audience.
The other couple in this captivating drama is, of course, the wandering husband, Noah Solloway, (played by another British actor, Dominic West) and his wife, Helen (played by Maura Tierney).
We discover that Noah is a teacher and aspiring writer, and his wife comes from a very wealthy family with whom they travel to vacation with, thus bringing all the characters together.
The setting for the unfolding of "The Affair" is a coastal beach community called Montauk, in New York. It provides a scenic but somewhat lonely stage for the developing drama. The gusty winds and crashing waves are a great backdrop to the tide of emotions we witness.
"The character of Noah doesn't seem to get any more attractive as the series progresses, but he does offer up the occasional redeeming action or line that keeps the audience engaged."
One of the most startling pieces of information we learn early on is that Noah and Helen Solloway have four children who they are on vacation with when Noah starts his affair with Alison. Right off the bat, Noah comes off as selfish, and pathetic. What kind of husband eyes a pretty waitress and has an affair while on vacation with his family?
As Noah's character is unraveled, we see that he is just an insecure writer, struggling for some sort of inspiration, or muse. Noah's wife, Helen, has two dysfunctional parents, and it becomes clear that Noah doesn't fit in with her affluent family at all. In fact, they barely seem to tolerate him.
The relationships and secrets we start to see emerge between Helen, her mother, and her father (played fantastically by Kathleen Chalfant and John Doman) is something to keep an eye on.
As for Helen and Noah's marriage, it plays out like any long-term partnership that still has a slight spark, but is beaten down by the day to day routine of raising children. We see that Noah and Helen have a connection, but there seems to be a disconnect between the upper-class culture Helen comes from and the "everyday man" that Noah perceives himself to be.
Noah despises the pretentiousness of Helen's family but ends up becoming a cliche himself, sneaking off to pursue a mysterious island waitress. The character of Noah doesn't seem to get any more attractive as the series progresses, but he does offer up the occasional redeeming action or line that keeps the audience engaged.
"The characters do what they want, when they want, with no apologies. They also suffer the consequences of their actions. There is no slack given to any one character because we like them. This is the most realistic and engaging part of the show."
There aren't going to be many plot giveaways here, but mid season one, "The Affair" really takes flight. It becomes not just about an affair or a mistress, but about the journey of several human beings, who are selfish in some ways but also surprisingly lovable as well.
The show does dash between flashbacks and flash forwards, which can be confusing for the casual viewer. You really need to be paying close attention to this drama series because it's moving full throttle ahead with or without you. You're either all in with this show or not at all.
There is an added murder mystery surrounding the entire series, but it's not at the center of this drama just yet. The murder mystery aspect has been building and sits on the horizon, waiting.
The fallout of Noah's affair with Alison kick-starts a procession of twists and curves that the audience won't be expecting. The show doesn't follow any beaten path towards an ending that suits everyone.
The characters do what they want, when they want, with no apologies. They also suffer the consequences of their actions. There is no slack given to any one character because we like them. This is the most realistic and engaging part of the show.
The character of Helen Solloway opens up from a seemingly aloof and unsuspecting wife to an emotionally broken woman who realizes her life is not what she thought it was. When season two unfolds, Helen Holloway shows us something viewers will both love to watch and also raise their eyebrows at. Watching her journey in itself has been a highlight.
"The presence of adultery is not a new concept on television, but the way in which this story is presented makes the reasons why the characters did what they did, in the beginning, irrelevant."
From the ugliness of betrayal to the unpredictable road to self-discovery, the four main characters in "The Affair" are still developing pieces of a puzzle.
The presence of adultery is not a new concept on television, but the way in which this story is presented makes the reasons why the characters did what they did, in the beginning, irrelevant. The characters - who are all gorgeously flawed down to the last bite - represent a montage of sadness, regret, hope, joy, and human passion. Not glamorized passion, but the messy, awkward passion we can all relate to.
Not only is the show worth a watch, but the music from the series is stellar, featuring an opening by theme titled, "Container" Fiona Apple, and one amazing scene in season two featuring "Changed the Locks" by Lucinda Williams - just to name two.
With, "The Affair" you can be a fly on the wall as a witness not only to the fragile life-cycle of relationships but to the evolution of four people who discover themselves through an affair. The ride has been thoroughly enjoyable thus far.
Have You Enjoyed "The Affair"?
© 2015 Michelle Zunter